CDs vs. iTunes

In the comments of my Randy Newman post, the question came up of whether it still makes sense in this day and age to buy music on compact discs as opposed to downloading it from iTunes.

I say it’s a no-brainer… CDs all the way.

First, there’s the packaging. Granted, these aren’t the days of fold-out vinyl records with artwork that could double as posters, but artists still manage to put some creativity into their CD booklets. Photos, sketches, all that fun stuff. And the lyrics, of course, which I’d much rather read on paper than on a computer screen (if you can even find them online).

Second, I like the tangible quality of a physical music collection. I like the fact that if my computer suffers a complete meltdown I won’t lose all my songs. I like when people come over and comment on my music (“Bob Dylan and Hanson… aren’t you well-rounded?”). I like that it encourages me to listen to albums, when iTunes is so much about individual songs.

Finally, I still relish the experience of going to a store on release day and walking out with a brand-new album by a favorite artist… tearing off the wrapper in the car, cracking open the lyric sheet and hearing something for the first time.

I suppose the CD is dying, and I might be stuck with the equivalent of 500 8-track cassettes several years from now. But I’m holding out.

How about you?

13 thoughts on “CDs vs. iTunes

  1. saltgirlspeaks says:

    I agree… Although most of my music listening is done via iPod, I do still keep all of my CDs, and I do buy new CDs, much for the same reasons you do. Plus, it feels like more of a collection when you can actually LOOK at it 🙂

  2. mom says:

    I agree Clay. Dad and I would never listen to music if we didn’t have our CDs.

  3. Dana says:

    With all due respect, you (and those who share your views) are dinosaurs. CDs are slowly dying, following down the path of the 8 track, the cassette, the LP, the laser disc, the floppy disk, etc… I predict that within 5-10 years, you will not find CDs sold in most stores. I also predict that within 10-20 years, you will not find books published in anything other than electronic form. All media, whether it be books or music, will be on screens. So enjoy the CDs while they last, and make sure you have enough storage room to put them next to your laser discs.:)

  4. Clay says:

    I don’t disagree with your prediction (though I think it might take a little longer than 5-10 years). I’m just planning to fight it every step of the way.

    Another argument for the CD route is sound quality. While I can’t really tell the difference on my stereo system, it’s generally accepted that MP3 quality is inferior to that of a CD. So until the technology improves, the audiophiles will be slower to make the switch.

    Of course, with the pace of technological improvements, those advances are probably 6 weeks away.

  5. Dana says:

    I’m not sure why an MP3 would have lower sound quality, as basically a CD is simply a burning of MP3s. I do think that you won’t hear the same quality through car speakers until the MP3 is factory installed with hard wiring.

  6. Clay says:

    MP3s are compressed versions of CD files, so by definition they lose quality in the transfer. But I think you need pretty high quality equipment to appreciate the difference.

    Definitely agree that the iPod sound suffers in the car unless you have it hard-wired. In fact, that’s probably the #1 reason I stick with CDs, because I do almost all my music listening in the car.

  7. Dana says:

    I don’t see how the MP3 can be a compressed version of the CD. The music is recorded onto a harddrive nowadays and is saved as an mp3 or similar type of file. It then needs to be burned onto the CD format.

  8. Clay says:

    “MP3’s use of a lossy compression algorithm is designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording and still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio for most listeners, but is not considered high fidelity audio by audiophiles. An MP3 file that is created using the mid-range bit rate setting of 128 kbit/s will result in a file that is typically about 1/10th the size of the CD file created from the original audio source.”

  9. Dana says:

    interesting, but I wonder if that holds true also for the Itunes format, which is not mp3.

  10. Amy says:

    Wow, I’m sorry I came to this thread late, as all this techno speak leaves me cold. While I did love the feeling of walking out of a store with a cd in hand, I equally enjoy browsing through iTunes, finding a song I had forgotten I loved, and, within seconds, owning that song and being able to listen to it on my iPod whenever I please. Such an experience is all the more to be cherished after one takes the time and effort (and oil) as I did this past Tuesday to go to a store to buy a new cd, only to find that the cd is not being stocked (perhaps an indication of Dana’s dire prediction).

    That said, I get far more passionate and twitchy at the thought of this same digital revolution replacing my beloved books. I love the Amazon magnet that reads “A room without books is like a body without a soul” and completely “get” the satisfaction of showing off who you are through your library collection of books (more so than of music or movies). The notion that one day the only remnants of that collection will be the shelfari corner on my blog and that all my books will be housed within a Kindle (or the iPage) disturbs me to no end.

  11. Clay says:

    Yes, I meant to comment on the book issue as well. I really hate to think of a world without paper, especially in book form. I guess the trees will be thankful.

    But imagine not being able to point to a dogeared copy of your very favorite novel. Rather, it lives in a thin white device alongside The DaVinci Code. And no more cover art? No more Barnes & Noble? I don’t call that progress.

  12. Dana says:

    You can still have covers in electronic form! Get into the 21st century!

  13. mom says:

    Please lets never get rid of the books, look what’s happening to our newspapers for heaven’s sake! I’m willing to stay in the 20th century if that means no more paper.

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